When a published book is successful (sells well), the publisher and author begin pondering how to be successful again with the next book.
Often times, the solution to the repeat-success puzzle in non-fiction is having a similar message but aimed at a different audience. You’ve seen it happen many times, whether you realized it was intentional or not.
Examples of branded book lines which have been successful are numerous. For these, the author’s name-awareness can become secondary to the brand.
Since most nonfiction books in the Christian market appeal primarily to adult women, a common second-book might be aimed more specifically at single women, young women, moms, wives, or expanding the message to men, teens, or some other focused group. Applying a generally similar message with more targeted material has been a successful publishing strategy for many publishers.
But if you are an author who wants to go an entirely different direction with your next book, it can be somewhat dissatisfying, creatively speaking.
A successful book can be a blessing or even a curse, as excellent sales “brand” you a certain way. You will be expected to repeat the success, and more than likely, you will be required to do something “same, but different.” Frequently, this means to write a similar book to a more focused audience.
A very small number of authors can write whatever they want, and their readership follows them to whatever they write. The bulk of successful authors are known for something relatively narrow.
If this makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to take a deep breath and get over it.
Authors are in the business of creating a consumer product and it makes no business sense ignoring the consumer when deciding what to write. They are the eventual buyer and consumer, making the entire publishing process work.
In fact, once the needs of the reader begin to mean little to you, consider finding another way to express your creativity and message. Publishing without a reader-focus is destined to fail.
Being a successful author is about giving your readers what they expect. Don’t disappoint them.
It’s why Paul McCartney still sings “Hey Jude” at his concerts, a half-century after the Beatles broke up.
If you are fortunate enough to have a book which sells well, either traditionally or self-published, don’t move too far away from the theme of it for your next one.
In some cases, you simply need to ask yourself how you can re-work the content to aim it more specifically at a certain market and do a book which is a derivative of the first one.
The creative author then enters into the uncomfortable world of creative “sameness” which can feel unfulfilling.
But a successful author will respond to the discomfort with, “Well, that was interesting. Maybe I can do it again and reach more and different readers?”
Once they find something which works, authors with traditional publishers, and successful self-published authors take advantage of the opportunity and stay in their branded publishing lane…until it stops working, at which point they try something else.
Successful publishing of all kinds is more about the reader than the author. Everyone must pay close attention to what readers want to read. Readers are not all alike and no book is for everyone, despite what some may think.
If you are fortunate enough to achieve good results in publishing, be ready to repeat it. Often, this means writing a similar book to a different, more specific audience.